AURORA – October 16, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today announced that OnLight Aurora is a recipient of an Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge award, a statewide competition to establish ultra-high speed broadband networks across Illinois. The state is awarding $1 million in Illinois Jobs Now! capital funding to OnLight Aurora to help connect the city of Aurora’s fiber optic network to its education, business, and healthcare communities and accelerate economic growth and job creation.
Announced during Governor Quinn’s 2012 State of the State Address, the Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge advances the governor’s efforts to encourage world-class broadband infrastructure in every area of Illinois.
“Smart communities will foster the job engines of the future," Governor Quinn said. “To win in the information economy, we need information infrastructure that is second to none. Through the Gigabit Communities Challenge, Illinois will build stronger, smarter communities with Internet connections more than 100 times faster than they are today."
OnLight Aurora is among the first in a series of Challenge award recipients that will be announced in the coming weeks. The state’s investment will help connect Aurora’s robust, state-of-the-art fiber network to more than 12,000 end users, including students, nurses, business men and women, and residents.
Administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), the $1 million award represents a seed investment for OnLight Aurora’s pilot project and will help leverage an additional $1 million in public and private matching funds and create 2,500 jobs over the next five years. The state’s investment will help provide connectivity to Aurora’s public and private K-12 schools, higher education and healthcare institutions, commercial corridors and community anchors in underserved areas, and major non-profit organizations across the city.
“This grant will help OnLight Aurora continue to close the digital divide within our city by capitalizing on our Fiber Optic Network,” said Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner. “We know that technology has the potential to revolutionize our educational system and it is an absolute must for successful companies of all sizes. By developing the infrastructure of the future, we drive economic development, strengthen our tax base, and address our community’s most fundamental needs: jobs, quality of life and global competitiveness.”
OnLight Aurora is an independent, not-for-profit organization that was formed out of a technology task force organized by Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner in 2011 that included public and private sector volunteers. The mission of OnLight Aurora is to leverage the world-class connectivity of Aurora’s Fiber Optic Network for non-municipal use.
“One of the major factors in companies locating to a city is the access to technology,” said Joseph Henning, President and CEO of the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce. “This grant will make it more cost effective to provide current businesses and those looking to make Aurora home, with the technology they need to succeed in today’s global business environment while creating thousands of jobs over the next five years.”
As part of the comprehensive, multi-year Illinois Jobs Now! economic development program, the Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge sought proposals from private and public organizations to encourage promising ultra high-speed broadband deployment projects throughout Illinois. Applicants were required to provide a viable plan to connect at least 1,000 end users to an ultra high-speed broadband network. Award recipients will receive seed funding to help build or expand world-class broadband networks in Illinois.
Earlier today, Governor Quinn awarded the first Gigabit Communities Challenge grant to Gigabit Squared during an awards ceremony held in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood. For more information on the Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge, visit Gigabit.Illinois.gov.
A longtime advocate for improving our technology infrastructure, Governor Quinn has been a strong voice for broadband deployment in all areas of Illinois. As part of the Illinois Jobs Now! capital construction program, the Broadband Deployment Fund was used in 2010 and 2011 to jumpstart more than 4,000 miles of new fiber optic cable construction and more than $300 million in private and federal investment in Illinois.